In a sport that has lagged behind professional leagues like the MLB and NBA, the NFL’s embrace of analytics has been a relatively slow one. But thanks in part to companies like Pro Football Focus, Edj Football and the development of Next Gen Stats, the use of this data science has become more widespread among teams, fans and media alike.
While the Pittsburgh Steelers have something of a reputation as one of the more traditional franchises in the NFL, the reality is they are among the more forward thinking teams when it comes to the use of technology and analytics. The Steelers analytics department is headed up by their Analytics & Football Research Coordinator Karim Kassam, formerly a professor at Carnegie Mellon University with a PHD in Psychology from Harvard University and a Masters Degree in Computer Science from Imperial College in London.
Hired to a full-time role with the team in 2015, Kassam’s job is to help the coaching staff make sense of all the data that is now available to them. Aiming to improve not only the way the players perform on game day and the decisions the coaches make, analytics are also used to assist player evaluations, scouting, training, roster development and more.
For those interested in this relatively under publicized aspect of modern day football, Kassam provided some interesting insights while appearing as a guest speaker at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston last weekend. Part of a panel that included Kevin Demoff, Executive Vice President of Football and Chief Operating Officer for the Los Angeles Rams and analytics expert Warren Sharp, the trio discuss the evolution of analytics in football.
Topics ranged from how the data is used and what certain teams hope to get from it, to what aspects of the game analytics could be most useful and how it can impact roster decisions. Hosted by ESPN reporter Mina Kimes, the panel lasts almost an hour and for those interested, the link to the full video can be found here.
Fans might also find the answer Kassam gave to a question about which aspect of a player he wished it was possible to analyze rather telling.
#Steelers Analytics & Football Research Coordinator Karim Kassam's answer to a question about which aspect of a player he wished it was possible to analyze was rather telling at the Sloan Sports Analytics Sports Conference. ➡️https://t.co/Gl8agf3kfz⬅️ ... pic.twitter.com/a2xk59331R— Simon Chester (@SimonAChester) March 5, 2019